It’s a hot summer day at Franny’s Farm Camp in Leicester, North Carolina. Farmer Frances Tacy and a gaggle of campers are searching for a pig named Doughnut. Franny and the kids shout out “Come here doughnut,” and the sweet snorting pig ambles toward them.
Farm camps like this one are cropping up in Western North Carolina, and across the country. Some camps teach kids how to get their hands dirty in the garden, and cook the food they grow. Others use agriculture to enhance classic summer camp activities like arts and crafts.
Today is the first time many of the kids have touched a pig, and their giggles echo throughout the camp’s rolling hills. Now it’s time to go inside and wash hands after touching the farm animals, then we head out into the garden to pick tomatoes, basil, and edible flowers for lunch. The kids taste nasturtium and marvel at its spicy flavor.
Some experiences, like petting pigs and tasting flowers, are new to the kids. And other activities, like picking blueberries, reinforce what they’re learning in their own backyards. “I have six bushes at my house, they are all ripe,” says a young camper. “Whenever you grow blueberries and you see a blueberry, my heart lights up because I love blueberries. I mean, it makes me feel good that I actually grew something.”
The kids also cook the food they harvest. They spend all week preparing a Friday feast. On Wednesday they make pasta. Camp director Jennifer Porter helps the kids understand that foods like pasta don’t have to come from a box.
“It is just pouring the flour on the table in front of them, they make a mound, crack the eggs themselves, and just really do the whole process. We have a pasta roller, so they roll out pasta and then take it home for dinner. I love the fact that they get to see raw ingredients. They do it themselves, hands on, and then they get to enjoy the benefits of what they’ve made.” Porter says.
“Everything we do is about a connection to food,” Tacy says. “Every day throughout the day, it’s always intertwined in our conversations so that they can learn to connect with food.”
Porter adds, “My hope for children is just to have this be such a memorable experience that it’s something they’re going to have forever.”
Aired: August 21, 2017